A short story
by Chris Hibbard
Written August 5, 2011
Begun 9:45 PM- Completed 11:05 PM
MST time, Canada
Timothy Squire hadn’t been out much lately. He’d been spending a lot of time with his big screens and online multi-player roleplaying games, and thereby engaged in all sorts of imaginary mischief. In fact, Timothy couldn’t remember the last time he’d touched a real human being.
This issue did not affect the young man much however, as he’d become quite comfortable in solitude. He’s gotten used to the individual sounds created by his furnace and water heater and become accustomed to the ‘chick-chick’ background motions of cheap venetian blinds rubbing together. This affinity for isolation was what caused Timothy to jump; (nearly out of his skin as the expression goes), when there came a knock on his front door at 2:00 AM, one average Tuesday morning.
Timothy was deeply involved in the latest Playstation sensation, re-enacting the adventures of a Greek god who was taking revenge on all other gods who had wronged him. His last combination attack had decapitated a hydra and disemboweled a gorgon.
He’d called into work this morning, pretending to have a stomach condition in order to take down that giant freakin’ Minotaur that was guarding Pandora’s box of evil. Timothy couldn’t get over how the game included the newest in high quality sound effects, with huge DTI, 300 per-cent stereo sound-surround vibrations. But now this frickin’ knock… Taking one more medium swipe with his axe-chain, Timothy hit the Pause button.
Slowly releasing his grip on the Playstation controller his white knuckles were wrapped around, he first evaluated his immediate surroundings and situation. “That knock could be my parents… Shit…, they can’t see the place like this…, aw crap.. no, wait, they’re on vacation; so phewwww…” were his instant paranoid thoughts. These were followed by other considerations. It might be a crazy person… a neighbor in trouble… it could be Veronica!
“Oh hell…” were the next words out of his mouth. He should brush his teeth quick and put on fresh pit-stick. He’d hate to see Veronica, that pretty brunette from down the way, looking’ like he did right now; his eyes all red from buds and Buds, his belt unbuckled to alleviate bloated belly tension.
But the honest approach was usually the right one, Timothy’s Baptist preacher daddy had always told him. So Timothy asked nervously, “Who’s there?”, as he slowly adjusted the volume level on the television.
Timothy’s mother has drilled into him those notions that honesty, forgiveness, mercy and all those other fine things were more than just emotional baggage that had been painted in a bull-pucky shade a’ brown. They were more than just cockamamie lies that’d been spritzed with catch-all perfume made from essence of snake oil. These things were divine commandments, straight-up how-to-live’ guidelines. Timothy deconstructed these feelings over several decades and far too many Sunday mornings. With time, by studying journalism and interview techniques at college, Timothy had learned that the answers to all of life’s questions were available, provided you asked the right question at the right time, or knew the right people with the right access to the right amount of money.
“It’s your new landlord,” came the disembodied voice from behind the door to the hall. “My name’s Grenda,” the voice established. Her phrasing of “Landlord” had a Jersey-lily “lon-lawd” sound to it, and the rich and smoky tone instantly conjured a picture in Timothy’s mind: one featuring some gorgeous, well-developed housewife who was of course, very lonely and desperate for masculine company. Rising quickly from the sofa cushions while still half-summoning Veronica, Timothy considered applying some anti-biotic handwash cream as he approached the small bottle kept in a basket by the door before turning the knob.
Curiosity overcame him though, and upon his hastily throwing the door open, he was confronted by an elderly woman with dark skin, iron-gray hair pulled tightly back in a severe bun that made her eyes bulge behind thick bi-focal glasses. When the door was fully open, Grenda stepped across the threshold. Looking around the bachelor suite with obvious disdain for the decor and condition of carpet, she tilted her nose towards the ceiling and thrust a document towards a startled Timothy. “You’ve received three complaints in one night now Mr. Squire. See, I don’t know what kinda games you got goin’ in here, but yo’ neighbours have been complainin’. They’ve heard screams, and animals being tortured, and they’re even castin’ worries over some kind of satanic sacrifice. Now I ain’t got no gripes wit’ y’all personally, I mean, we’ve never even met before … but me bein’ the landlady n’ all… this here is the official building notice for noise violation.”
Timothy accepted the document from her now outstretched hand, receiving it somewhat numb and useless. “But.. you mean..,” he was just starting to ask the first of a dozen questions when Grenda resumed her stern dressing down.
“If we get any more complaints after quiet time hours, Mr. Squire; we reserve the right to ask you to vacate to premises. Does this make sense to you? Are we clear?”
Timothy cast his eyes toward the floor, shuffled his feet meekly and replied, “Yes ma’am, Ms. Grenda. Keep it quiet or I’m out of here.” His mind’s eye returned for an instant to an old junior high school geography teacher, who had made him feel equally small nearly two decades ago. His thoughts then drifted briefly towards Veronica, the gorgeous brunette down the hall, wondering first if she’d heard any of this conversation and second if she’d been the one who’d dialed the pissed-off neighbour call.
Slowly pushing the door closed, Timothy returned to the sofa and sat down heavily. Still holding the notice of excess volume reprimand in his left hand, he reluctantly adjusted the volume settings on his home theatre with his right; turning down the bass and middle channels with a sigh of resignation.
“Now just how am I supposed to defeat the Cyclops, let alone the Three Sacred Furies and the God of Thunder when I can’t even hear my weapon slice the air?,” he thought, before pressing the Unpause button.
* * *